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Author Topic: A slightly different "please recommend a book" thread
dkw
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Iím a member of a book discussion group at our local library. We take turns choosing books, and Iím having an awful time picking one for my next turn. The only thing the book group has in common is that weíre all women between the ages of 30 and 60 who like to read. Weíve given up on trying to choose books that everyone will like, now we just shoot for books that no one will hate so much they canít finish. Two of us love speculative fiction, one absolutely hates it (so she says, I donít think sheís ever actually read any). One reads everything Oprah ever recommends, one refuses to read anything Oprah recommends. We have one John Grisham fan, one Michael Moore fan, and three people who read mysteries. We all get along well and enjoy the group, even though we deplore each othersí taste in books.

Anyone want to make a suggestion?

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fiazko
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"Even Cowgirls Get the Blues" by Tom Robbins
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Dan_raven
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"Hey Cowboy, Wanna Get Lucky" by Baxter Black. It is different, fun, and light but also hard to come by.
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Noemon
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How about some Octavia Butler? Maybe Kindred or Parable of the Sower? Butler is known primarily as a SF author, but either of these books would probably be able to sneak under your SF hating friend's radar.

Or how about some Twain? Any of it would be good, but it might be fun to read Letters from the Earth that everyone in the group won't have already read.

A short, interesting read by an incredible SF author who could also probably sneak under your friends radar would be Maureen McHugh's most recent novel, Necropolis. Her Mission Child would probably work as well.

If you want to go with an official classic, Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment is damed good, as is Mann's Death in Venice. It's been too long since I've read those.

Orwell's Down and Out in London and Paris would be a good choice too.

What books has this group generally enjoyed in the past? Do you only read fiction?

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Javert Hugo
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Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible. An oprah book (I think), but an actually good one.
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Noemon
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Louise Erdritch's Tracks is pretty good too.
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jeniwren
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Do they have to be fiction?
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BYuCnslr
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If you're up for historical fiction Lost Names is a really good book, its almost an autobiography of how the author's childhood was during the occupation of Korea by Japan. I read it for my Chinese Nationalism class, but it was still very beautifully written and a great book for just sitting down and reading, even if it isn't for a class.
Satyagraha

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Bob_Scopatz
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Have you already done Dan Brown's books? I'm reading The Da Vinci Code right now and loving it. Angels and Demons was excellent.

Oh heck, read Sarah or Rebeccah. My mom loved those and she's not much on speculative fiction.

Also, I can recommend Sarum and London by Rutherford (sp?)

You might also try some Caleb Carr. The Alienist is probably the best bet.

Or just get an almanac. [Big Grin]

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saxon75
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Peace, by Gene Wolfe.
Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.

Not sure if either of them line up well with the people you've described, but they're both excellent.

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Noemon
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I started Sarum back in '91 or so (it was right after I'd visited Stonehenge, and somebody gave it to me becase of that), and I remember not getting into it. Of course, I was relatively young, so it could be that now that my tastes have matured somewhat I'd like it.
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Christy
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For the mystery lovers, I've really liked Peter Tremayne's Sister Fidelma series. Its a "historical" Irish mystery. On the same thread, I really like the Dame Frevisse novels by Margaret Frazer (same theme, medieval/provencial) and the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters. They're definitely not the John Grisham, thriller type of mysteries, and are definitely more along the threads of historical fiction, but fun reads and well written.

I've also really enjoyed the new books by Jasper Fforde (Lost in a good book, the Eyre Affair) and have been reccommending them on every suggest a book thread I've found. Sadly, I haven't found many other enthusiasts.

Edit: Amy Tan might be a good choice as well. Have you read the Joy Luck Club? I bought several of her others, but haven't made it through my stacks to them yet.

[ January 02, 2004, 01:58 PM: Message edited by: Christy ]

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Mrs.M
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  • Mama Day, Linden Hills, or The Women of Brewster Place by Gloria Naylor
  • A Severed Wasp by Madeleine L'Engle (one of her adult novels)
  • Blue Diary or The River King by Alice Hoffman

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Bob_Scopatz
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Noemon...try it again... But I do think his book LONDON is more interesting and has a more sweeping story arc.
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Rhaegar The Fool
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The Lion of Ireland by Morgan Llewelyn
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dkw
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Most of what we've read is fiction, but not all. I was going to go with A Severed Wasp, but I'd kind of like to choose a book I haven't already read. That, of course, makes me worry that the book I'll choose will be absolute crap, which is why I'm asking you brilliant and well-read people for advice.

So far I think the only books we've all liked have been Father Melancholy's Daughter and Lessons Before Dying.

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The Rabbit
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Consider

Where Rivers Change Direction, by Mark Spragg

review

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jeniwren
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I enjoy Torey Hayden's books, though they are not fiction. She writes about her career in teaching disturbed children. She's very readable.

I also liked Dava Sorbel's Longitude, which is, again, not fiction. Her other book, Galileo's Daughter is not as fast paced, but is equally interesting. I would put her books on par with Seabiscuit, if you've read that.

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Synesthesia
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Are you biased against books targeted towards children? There's The His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman. It's an excellent trilogy. Consisting of The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife. It will be guaranteed to spark much conversation.
Then there's the classic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn which to me is the best book ever.
The there's Prayer for Owen Meany.
Kitchen God's Wife
100 Secret Senses.
And the excellent The Last Samurai, not to be confused with the movie. Read it, it's EXCELLENT.

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ana kata
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Mark Salzman's The Laughing Sutra is just great. He's my new favorite living writer. He writes mainstream novels, not F/SF, so your non-spec-fic person should be happy. (There are elements of Chinese folklore in that book, though.) I also highly recommend all of his other books, particularly Iron and Silk, which is a memoir of his time in China teaching English, though it reads like a series of connected short stories. I also loved his novels The Soloist and Lying Awake, as well as Lost in Place, which is the story of his childhood, subtitled "Growing up Absurd in Suburbia". He's just the most wonderful writer. Do give him a try.

[ January 02, 2004, 06:03 PM: Message edited by: ana kata ]

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Lalo
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Are these women men enough to read a 3,000 page trilogy? Specifically, the much-acclaimed George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire?

It's all I've been recommending for the past six months, and I see no reason to stop now. It's damn good.

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dawnmaria
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Synesthesia [Big Grin] A Tree Grows In Brooklyn!!
You're one of the only people I have met that love that book like I do! I try to collect my fav's in 1st edition and was lucky enough to just get a hard back of that one, but it does have a great photo of the author on the inside asking readers to buy war bonds. I also think To Kill A Mockingbird is one of the all time greatest books ever written and it would probably satisfy even the most persnickity member of a reading group.
Oh and Synesthesia, I have loved all the books on your list but I haven't tried the Pullman ones yet so I will now on your reccomendation since you obviously have such great taste! Have you tried Amy Tan's new one The Opposite of Fate?

[ January 02, 2004, 06:21 PM: Message edited by: dawnmaria ]

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Elizabeth
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Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man , by Fannie Flagg
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mackillian
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I agree with Sarum and London.
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Fitz
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Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry.
The Prince of Tides by Pat Conroy.

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rivka
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I third A Tree Grows In Brooklyn, and recommend the author's Tomorrow Will Be Better -- which I thought was even better. Reviews
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dkw
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I adore A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but it doesn't meet the "I haven't already read it" criteria.

I dislike the His Dark Materials trilogy.

I don't think A Song of Fire and Ice is a good idea, since the two of us who read speculative fiction have already read it.

Thank you everybody. I'm keeping a list of all of the recommendations, since my turn to choose will roll around every five months or so.

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jexx
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Amy Tan is a fabulous writer! I haven't read her new release yet, is it any good? It's a non-fiction book, isn't it? I need to go to the library and look for it, because I won't buy it in hardback, I just won't, and I don't want to wait for it to come out in paperback. *grin*

Another Barbara Kingsolver book that is thought-provoking is "The Bean Trees". Lurv it. I liked the Poisonwood Bible, but I luuuuuuuuuuuuuurved "The Bean Trees". Made me ask some hard questions of myself. I like that. I also liked her collection of short essays titled "High Tide in Tucson", but it is less suited for your reading group. I recommend it to you as a friend to a friend. [Smile]

If you want to try some light reading, mystery author Diane Mott Davison (sp?) is funny and smart. She writes a series about a caterer who solves mysteries, and the whole book talks food. Mmm...fooood. And the recipes are included in the book! She's terrific fun.

Sheri S. Tepper is a specfic author whose work I had to read for gender studies, which is kind of an interesting crossover. I believe it was her book "Grass" that we had to read, which was about a matriarchal society. Lots of good brain food in that one.

If you want to try some non-fiction that I am personally recommending lately, "Absolutely American" is an interesting book about West Point through the eyes of a Rolling Stones journalist. He follows a class of cadets through their entire academy career (four years). It reads like a novel, and it fascinates me, but that might be because I live here. *grin* I love that it was not written by a military person, because that cuts down on the pro-Army bias. Lipsky (the author) certainly has bias of his own, but it's different from the bias of all of the other West Point Historical Books, and that's a welcome change for this liberal in a sea of conservatives. *grin*

If you really want to shock the heck out of your reading group, suggest (and read) Laurell K. Hamilton. *snicker* She's nearly porn. Really. Don't read them, pastor dana [Wink] . At least, don't admit to it.

Hrmmm...I love so many books. It's torture working in a bookstore, because I have to fight every day not to buy stuff. Heh.

I would chime in with the "A Tree Grows In Brooklyn" recommendation, but I see that you have already read it.

Have you read any Alice Walker? Besides "A Color Purple", I mean? She's got some good stuff out there.

How about Marge Piercy? She writes subtle spec-fic, usually about the sixties era.

Jonathan Kellerman is terrific. He wrote the books that the Morgan Freeman movie is based on (I can't remember the name...durnit). Jeffrey Deaver writes the Lincoln Rhymes books (suspense/crime), I love them. There was a movie based on his book, too, but I forget which one. It's the one where...Bone Collector! That's the one! With Denzel Washington *swoon* in the part of Lincoln Rhymes, a paraplegic.

Okay, I think that is enough for now, but hey, YOU asked! Hee.

(edited to get an author's name right--I was COMPLETELY off!)

[ January 02, 2004, 11:06 PM: Message edited by: jexx ]

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dawnmaria
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jexx,
The new Amy Tan is good. It is non-fiction. It's a bunch of short stories/anecdotes about her life and things that have inspired her stories. I did not realize how much of what she writes about is truly pulled from her mothers life. I also didn't know she was a member of the Tattered Remnants with Stephen King, Dave Barry and a bunch of other writers. I truly enjoyed it. I was lucky enough to get an advanced reader and didn't have to get a hardcover. But if you can get it at the library, do. It's great if you are a big Tan fan. [Big Grin]

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Synesthesia
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I just finished Opposite of Fate. I really liked it.
I read one book by Sherri Tepper called Gate to Women Country and hated it... I thought it was rather dippy and somewhat poorly written.
Maybe I should read it again, but I hated it so much...

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jexx
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dawnmaria, thank you! I will get it from the library, then. I work at a bookstore, too, and for some reason we didn't get a reader's copy of Tan's new book *sniffle*. Of course, we specialize in military history and stuff, but we have a complete Best Seller collection. Poo. I wonder if Ellen (the co-manager) got it and took it home before I could get my sweaty little hands on it. Ha! *grin*

Syn, try a different Tepper book, I didn't like "Women's Country" either. *grin* It's like my constant fight with Stephen King. Some stuff I like, some stuff I don't, and it's hard to know in advance which stuff is which.

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Jill
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I second The Color Purple, The Bean Trees and Prayer for Owen Meany.
If you want some classics, try Jane Eyre or anything by Jane Austen (my personal favorite is Pride and Prejudice). And anything by Shakespeare, of course.
I can't believe we haven't yet mentioned Lord of the Rings or Ender's Game...
Enchantment is really good, too.
Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (I can't remember if it's an Oprah book or not, but it's really excellent)
Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Do you like plays? If so, anything by Tom Stoppard is excellent (try Arcadia).

[ January 02, 2004, 10:07 PM: Message edited by: Jill ]

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Bob_Scopatz
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Oh! How could I forget. I have the perfect book.

Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins.

Really. This is THE book.

It has beets, the god Pan, perfume manufacturing, time travel and love story all rolled into one.

[ January 02, 2004, 10:38 PM: Message edited by: Bob_Scopatz ]

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dawnmaria
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jexx
The only reason I got an advanced reader was because I went to a book convention in Atlantic City. We never got one at the store either. My assistant likes to grab anything up that's free, but she knows if she touches any of my favorite authors I will take her water for the tribe! [Evil]

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ClaudiaTherese
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Oooooohhhh, Mark Helprin, please.

quote:
We would sit in the glow of a brazier just after sunset, sipping warm beer from brown bottles with no labels, as a man who had not shaved since the Battle of Hastings grilled what he claimed were tapir kabobs. These we had sizzling hot, drowned in a red pepper sauce that the devil had used to paint his Bentley.
--Memoir From Antproof Case

quote:
[On the hero's obsession with coffee:] The voodoo priest and all his powders were as nothing compared to espresso, cappuccino, and mocha, which are stronger than all the religions of the world combined, and perhaps stronger than the human soul itself.
--Memoir from Antproof Case

quote:
Lonely people have enthusiasms which cannot always be explained. When something strikes them as funny, the intensity and length of their laughter mirrors the depth of their loneliness, and they are capable of laughing like hyenas. When something touches their emotions, it runs through them like Paul Revere, awakening feelings that gather into great armies.
--Winter's Tale

Good gracious, dkw, if you haven't yet read Helprin, let me mail you some copies. I keep extras. [Smile]
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ClaudiaTherese
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Okay, that's it. My Landmark 4000 will be an offer to Paypal small sums to people who agree to consider those things which I believe to be unknown gems.

This will include eBay Self-Representing Artists (already owe some there, [Big Grin] ), Leonard Cohen, Mark Helprin, and Butchie eggs. Stay tuned -- thar's money in it for ya. [Wink]

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HenryW
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I did not see one of my favorites. Sticking with Sci-Fi/Fantasy I recommend most anything by C. J. Cherryh. An excellent story teller - she seems to be able to let a tale roll much like Card.

I find the 'Foreigner' series compelling and I am held captive as I was by Lord of the Rings and Ender's stuff.

[ January 03, 2004, 10:18 AM: Message edited by: HenryW ]

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amira tharani
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It's a long shot, but try Mark Haddon's "The Curious Incident Of the Dog in the Night-Time." It's about an autistic teenager who writes a murder mystery - there's enough there to appeal to your mystery fans, and it's mainstream rather than speculative but fantastically written.
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WheatPuppet
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Empire Falls although the name of the author escapes me. Of all the books I read for a kinda-lousy modern american literature class, that was the only one I enjoyed, but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The other books were The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison, Prince of Tides, What we Keep, and The Lovely Bones. I hated them all, except Empire Falls.
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Shan
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I second Sheri S. Tepper - try "The Gate To Women's Country." VERY thought-provoking and and excellent read - makes interesting uses of the Iliad from a woman's point of view.
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Mad Ogre
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Sharron Shinn: Archangel.
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littlemissattitude
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Someone mentioned Jonathan Kellerman. He's good, but for my money his wife, Faye Kellerman, is even better. Her Peter and Rina Decker mysteries are great. The first one is "The Ritual Bath". These books take place in contemporary Los Angeles (mostly) and have an Orthodox Jewish background. The interplay between the living of Orthodox religious convictions and dealing with the realities of being a detective with the LAPD (that's how Peter, who was raised Baptist, makes his living and how he meets Rina in this first book) are fascinating. I highly recommend this series.

I will also second the already-mentioned "The Poinsonwood Bible", "Tracks", and "The Mists of Avalon".

Oh, and if you want to lay some more science fiction on them, try Kage Baker's novels of The Company. "In the Garden of Iden" is the first book.

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Scott R
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Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.
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jexx
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Okay, lma, on your recommendation, I checked out the second Faye Kellerman book ("Ritual Bath" was already checked out, or I would have started with that one, I always prefer to begin at the beginning) at the library. I'll let you know how it goes, but I'm already intrigued by the blurb. I'd start it now, but I'm in the middle of "Legends II" that some meddling jatraquero mentioned in another thread.
Darned Hatrack. Always piquing my interest in books and sucking up the rare time that I am not being sucked in by the computer. *grin*

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asQmh
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Well, I have to recommend a small slate. First, the obligatory Chaim Potok: The Chosen and The Promise; I've never met anyone who didn't love them and they are definitely books that will inspire conversation.

Then, of course, there's a fun one by Mark Twain called Innocents Abroad. It blurs the line between fact and fiction because while it's largely a travelogue of a trip Twain and some of his cohorts took, we all know he's a fabulous liar. It's hilarious and worth reading.

Hmmm. How to be Good by Nick Hornby jumps to mind. It was interesting. And nearly anything by John Updike - particularly A Month of Sundays or S. or For the Beauty of the Lilies.

A Severed Wasp is terrific, but then anything by L'Engle is. ^_~

There are so many -- but I'll stop there. Promise.

Q.

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Storm Saxon
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saxon75, you crack me up. [Smile]
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rivka
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Diane Mott Davidson's books are lots of fun (and the recipes are luscious!), but I think they might not be "Deep" enough. [Wink]

I strongly agree with lma! While Jonathan Kellerman's stuff is ok, I really like most of his wife's stuff (I did not care for the non-series one set in Las Vegas). And reading them out of order is not a big deal. And if you like her stuff, try Rochelle Krich's books.

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littlemissattitude
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Rivka...I read "Moon Music" as well. It wasn't really a bad book, but she seemed out of her element in the supernatural aspects of the story. I was under the impression that it was meant to be the first of another series; I wonder if the reaction to it was negative enough that she decided not to continue with it.

Have you - or anyone else - read "The Quality of Mercy", her historical mystery that takes place in Tudor England and has William Shakespeare as a character. I bought it a long time ago, but I've never gotten around to reading it and I can't find it now. I was wondering if it would be worth trying to figure out where I put it so that I can read it.

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dkw
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The problem I have with Diane Mott Davidson, is that I worked as a caterer for three years, and she is totally unrealistic. Iíve only read one of her books, and I donít remember what it was called, but her main character was catering an appetizer party for 500 people in the early afternoon, and she slept in, made herself a leisurely breakfast, and then got all the food done by herself before her assistant arrived to help her pack the van. No way.
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rivka
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While I said, huh, that seems unlikely, but what do I know? [Big Grin]

In her most recent book, time-frames for events seemed a bit more realistic. But then, time was a more central issue . . .


lma, I have not, but it is on my "to-read" list. Unfortunately, while my library has most of her books, that one seems to be lacking.

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